Lesson 8: Blackberry Blossom

Posted November 15, 2007

Introducing Jim Carter, guest arranger

It is my pleasure to introduce Jim Carter, banjo picker and teacher in Elizabethton, Tennessee.  Jim lives on Cripple Creek Road.  How perfect is that!  You wouldn't usually think of learning banjo in the Persian Gulf... but listen to Jim's story:

I have a good story for ya! In 1989, I was in the United States Navy on a Spruance Class destroyer headed for the Persian Golf just before the 1st Gulf War broke out. A very close friend of mine from East Tennessee (Elizabethton) had left the ship to another duty station in California. After he arrived he called me and told me that he had left an old banjo in a locker and if I wanted it I could have it. Now, I'm from New York... I MIGHT have heard a banjo on He-Haw or something, but I figured what they heck. When I opened the case there was Jack Hatfield's book and a raggedy old banjo. When we left for the Gulf, one of the guys on the ship said he had a banjo he wanted to sell. It was a Washburn B-12 and he gave me some teaching books and tapes written by you. Well, for more than 6 months you and your lessons were my BEST source of entertainment! Not only that, but because of your lessons, I was SO hooked that when we got back home, I dropped a couple of thousand dollars on a new banjo (which I had until recently- traded up!)! When I was discharged from the service in 1992, I decided to go where people play banjos (much to my parents bewilderment and chagrin)! So I moved to Elizabethton and have been neck deep in Bluegrass and Banjo!

I have played Blackberry Blossom for a long time, but in an intimidating melodic arrangement which is pretty difficult to learn and to keep tight.  Jim sent me this version which is already working well for my students.  Thanks for sharing, Jim, and thanks for your service in the Navy.

Now, let's get to work on our exercises.



Opening Lick

The first lick uses an unusual roll pattern.  Forward roll followed by ITMI.  If you put your right hand at ease with this roll first, the lick to follow will be considerably easier!

Got the right hand?  OK, now add fingering.  The line between 10 and 7 on the 2nd string is not a slide, but rather a indication of a guide finger:  Do not lift 2nd finger.  Move it along the string and bring 3rd finger in beside it on the 1st string as you reach fret 7. 

Audio Links:  

Open Roll:  Slow  Faster

Lick:  Slow  Faster

First Phrase

With the opening lick under control, we're ready for the first phrase of Blackberry Blossom.  The 2nd and 3rd fingers at double 7's guide back to double 5's with a forward reverse roll open on the reverse side.


Audio:  Slow  Faster

A to D phrase.  This double-thumb run uses 1st and 3rd finger at frets 2 and 4.  Not actually an A or D chord, but it works!

Audio Links:     Slow     Faster

E minor lick.  Double-thumb roll with a hammer-on.

Audio:  Slow  Faster

E minor to B chord

The Em chord is implied by the E note on 1st string.  Slide with finger 2 and catch the 1st string with 1st finger.  The B chord is a 3-string bar with 1st finger.  Note:  When I have to get back to the slide to repeat, the last 4 on the B roll might be a 0, because I leave the chord a little early.  Do whatever works.  As I tell my students: "A missed note is a misdemeanor, but a missed beat is a felony!"


Audio:  Slow  Faster

Tag Lick

I have suggested this tag lick because it is as easy to play as the rest of this fine arrangement.  The 2nd and 1st fingers fret 10 and 9, then slide down to 5 and 4.  These positions are familiar to students who have played from the BLUEGRASS BANJO LEVEL TWO variations of Cripple Creek. 


Audio:  Slow  Faster

Blackberry Blossom

Arrangement by Jim Carter

Audio Links:  Slow   Faster

Thanks again, Jim, for the excellent arrangement.  You banjo players of upper East Tennessee are fortunate to have a guy like Jim Carter in your area.  Jim and I will get together in December and put together some more good stuff to share.

Good Luck Pickin'!

Edward T Wing

Pick'n'Grin, Knoxville, Tennessee